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American Forces Press Service

OIR Spokesman: Counter-ISIL Progress Continues

By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, February 10, 2016 – As Iraqi security forces make progress in the campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Canada's vow this week to expand its contributions in the fight is a welcomed commitment, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said today.

Warren noted in his weekly counter-ISIL operational update via videoconference from Baghdad that the Canadian government announced on Feb. 8th that it plans to triple the size of its train, advise and assist mission. A move that is welcomed, the colonel added.

"Canada will increase its compliment of military personnel to approximately 830," he said. "They will deploy troops at various headquarters to further support planning, targeting and intelligence. As part of these efforts, Canada will deploy medical personnel to train Iraqi medics and to provide medical support to coalition members."

Warren added, "Canada will also provide equipment such as small arms, ammunition and optics to assist in the training of Iraqi security forces."

The Canadians "have been a trusted and valuable partner of this coalition since the beginning of the campaign, whether it's providing aerial refueling and surveillance aircraft or trainers to advise and assist, they've shown great resolve and continue to enable this fight," the colonel said.

Gains Continue, Despite Threats

As clearance operations continue in Iraqi-controlled Ramadi, "untold thousands of [improvised explosive devices]" remain in the city, Warren said, and threats persist from enemy harassing attacks and acts of terror.

In other areas, Iraqi forces still retain and defend territory between Beiji and Tikrit, he said.

Peshmerga forces continue to hold and improve their defensive positions in Sinjar, Warren noted, adding coalition forces conducted four airstrikes in that area since last week.

Iraqi forces continue clearing operations near Fallujah along the Tharthar Canal, he said. In northern Iraq, Warren said, the coalition conducted 19 airstrikes last week in Mosul.

"The Islamic State has not gained a single inch of territory in Iraq in months," he said.

The Battle in Syria

Coalition airstrikes also were conducted against the Omar Gas and Oil Separation Plant in Dayr ez Zawr, Syria, Warren said.

Videos of the airstrikes on the plant demonstrate "the extraordinary precision of our airstrikes, which stands in stark contrast to the reckless indiscriminate bombing campaign that's been waged by the Russians," he said.

Vetted Syrian opposition forces remain in their defensive position along the Mara line, the colonel said, while Aleppo's situation is monitored.

"We're concerned with the reduced humanitarian access and continued strikes by the Russians and the Syrians [while] thousands of civilians are suffering," Warren said. "The situation in and around Aleppo has become, in our view, increasingly dire."

Yesterday's U.N. report accused the Syrian regime of 'inhumane actions' against Syrian civilians on a scale that, in the U.N.'s words, 'amounts to extermination,' he added.

Aleppo's two main hospitals have been destroyed by Russian and regime attacks, Warren said, and more than 50,000 Syrians are without any access to live-saving assistance.

While humanitarian organizations try to respond, ongoing Russian and Syrian military operations make access to people in need increasingly difficult, he said.

"ISIL is virtually nonexistent in that part of Syria," Warren said. "Russia can no longer credibly claim its airstrikes there are doing anything other than supporting regime forces.

Warren described Russia's airstrikes as "recklessness [and] indiscriminate … [in] what I would refer to as a strategically short-sighted vision of operations inside of Syria."

Even though Russia has said it would fight ISIL, Russian actions "have done nothing except prop up [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad, who we know is the root of the problem in Syria. And we don't see a future Syria that has Assad in it," Warren said.

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